Are Chromebooks or laptops better?

Chromebooks are more powerful and versatile than ever, especially as Google refines Chrome OS to work better with full-size devices. Traditional laptops running Windows or macOS are also more efficient and affordable than in the past. With both types of devices making significant strides in recent years, it’s a good question which is best for you.

If you do a lot of work on the internet and don’t use many resource-intensive apps, a Chromebook provides the convenience and functionality you need. But if you run a lot of CPU-heavy or Windows-specific programs, consider a full-featured laptop.

Chromebooks

Unlike when they first came out, today’s Chromebooks are versatile and easy to use. They’re designed around Chrome OS, which is related to the Android operating system but refined to work better with large devices such as tablets and laptops.

Chrome OS’s biggest upside is that it requires significantly less processing power than Windows or macOS. Because of that, Chromebooks generally have far less powerful components while offering a similarly smooth user experience to full-fledged laptops. Even a modestly equipped Chromebook can perform day-to-day tasks with little to no frustration or slowdowns.

Chromebook pros

  • Low prices: Affordability is one of the calling cards of most Chromebooks. You can get your hands on one that’s both highly portable and relatively powerful without spending a fortune.
  • Great for students: Due to their low cost, small size and relative durability, Chromebooks are perfect for all school levels. In fact, schools that provide students with their own laptops almost always do so in the form of Chromebooks.
  • User-friendly experience: Taking a cue from Android OS, Chromebooks offer a streamlined experience, including configuration, updating and general use. Unlike Windows, you’ll only rarely find yourself trying to navigate obscure settings or software bugs.
  • Above-average security: You’ll install far less software on a Chromebook than on other laptops. The average user also won’t have the same access to critical system files on Chrome OS. Those two factors make Chromebooks notably more secure than other laptops during everyday use.

Chromebook cons

  • Somewhat limited software selection: For the most part, Chromebooks are limited to apps found on the Google Play Store. That’s not a huge drawback, as there’s a good and ever-increasing selection found there. But it’s worth noting that some popular programs aren’t compatible with Chrome OS.
  • Restricted performance: While you can find Chromebooks equipped with premium hardware, Chrome OS and its app selection won’t usually take full advantage. For example, Chromebooks aren’t powerful enough to support modern, graphics-intensive games or demanding software such as Photoshop.
  • Below-average connectivity: Most Chromebooks don’t have a bevy of ports to use to connect devices. For example, laptops usually have more USB ports and are far more likely to have an HDMI output.

Best Chromebooks

Acer Chromebook Spin 713

Acer Chromebook Spin 713

The hardware inside this one is nearly as powerful as what most true laptops have. It also boasts a high resolution and 3:2 aspect ratio, making it significantly easier to get work done.

Sold by Acer

Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3

Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3

Arguably the most portable Chromebook ever, almost nothing competes with the size, weight and convenience of this detachable 2-in-1 Chrome OS tablet.

Sold by Lenovo

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2

This recently released model from electronics giant Samsung checks all the boxes in terms of reliability, performance and a mid-range price.

Sold by Amazon

Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga

Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga

The 360-degree hinge on this affordable clamshell makes it especially good for streaming movies and TV shows.

Sold by Lenovo and Amazon

Laptops

Due to significant advances in efficiency and manufacturing techniques, it’s never been a better time to invest in a laptop. You can get something powerful enough for nearly any work activity without spending a fortune, and you can find premium models with advanced features and excellent keyboards for better prices than ever.

The remarkable versatility of Windows and the user-friendly experience of macOS are the best reasons to opt for a full-featured laptop. The performance and available software on traditional notebook PCs make them great choices for nearly any use case.

Laptop pros

  • Endless versatility: There’s essentially no limit to the software you can run and things you can do with a Windows or Apple laptop. From simple word processing to intensive activities such as photo and video editing, a quality laptop can get the job done.
  • Increasing affordability: You no longer have to shell out an inordinate amount of money to get a high-performing laptop. Especially with advances in the efficiency of components such as the central processing unit, even today’s cheapest laptops provide a smooth user experience.
  • Large screens and batteries: Especially compared to Chromebooks, you can easily find modern laptops with large displays and long-lasting batteries.
  • Impressive connectivity options: While it’s not always the case, many full-fledged laptops have plenty of connections, including USB Type-A and Type-C ports as well as SD and microSD card slots.

Laptop cons

  • They’re not always cheap: You’ll still spend a lot if you want the most powerful components possible.
  • Windows isn’t always so user-friendly: Anyone new to using PCs might see a significant learning curve when configuring Windows and getting used to how it works.

Best laptops

Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13

Widely regarded as one of the top few laptops ever, the latest iteration of the Dell XPS lineup is portable, powerful, reliable and overall hard to top.

Sold by Dell and Amazon

Apple MacBook Air M1

Apple MacBook Air M1

It’s thin, light, easy to use and equipped with Apple’s first in-house chipset, the M1. It’s one of Apple’s most streamlined and efficient releases yet.

Sold by Amazon

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9

Not only is it packed with impressive components, but the ThinkPad Carbon also has one of the best keyboards ever found on a laptop. It’s worth highlighting the Gen 9, which is last year’s model, because it’s significantly more affordable than the only slightly improved Gen 10 version.

Sold by Lenovo and Amazon

Lenovo IdeaPad 3 14

Lenovo IdeaPad 3 14

There have been very few laptops throughout history that combine this performance level with such a remarkably low price.

Sold by Amazon

Should you get a Chromebook or a laptop?

If most of your work happens within a browser or a commonly used app found in the Google Play Store, a Chromebook will save you money while enabling all the productivity you need. On the other hand, if you frequently multitask, do any work that requires a lot of processing power or are committed to using Windows, a standard laptop is probably your best bet.

 

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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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